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Advised Ukraine to destroy disease-causing pathogens from labs, WHO says

The WHO said that it had advised war-hit Ukraine to destroy disease-causing pathogens, housed in the country's public health laboratories. (Representative image) (AFP)Premium
The WHO said that it had advised war-hit Ukraine to destroy disease-causing pathogens, housed in the country's public health laboratories. (Representative image) (AFP)

  • Russia-Ukraine conflict: Biosecurity experts have said that the attack by the Russian troops into Ukraine raised the risk of an escape of disease-causing pathogens
  • Ukraine's laboratory capabilities are at the center of a growing information war since Russia began moving troops into Ukraine two weeks ago

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The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said that it had advised war-hit Ukraine to destroy disease-causing pathogens, housed in the country's public health laboratories. The UN agency's suggestion came to prevent a "potential spill" of high-threat pathogens that would spread disease among the population.

Biosecurity experts have said that the attack by the Russian troops into Ukraine raised the risk of an escape of disease-causing pathogens.

Like many other countries, Ukraine has public health laboratories researching how to mitigate the threats of dangerous diseases affecting both animals and humans including, most recently, Covid-19. Its labs have received support from the United States, the European Union, and the WHO.

Ukraine's laboratory capabilities are at the center of a growing information war since Russia began moving troops into Ukraine two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova repeated a longstanding claim that the United States operates a biowarfare lab in Ukraine, an accusation that has been repeatedly denied by Washington and Kyiv.

Zakharova said that documents unearthed by Russian forces in Ukraine showed "an emergency attempt to erase evidence of military biological programmes" by destroying lab samples.

In response, a Ukrainian presidential spokesperson said: "Ukraine strictly denies any such allegation." US government spokespeople also strongly denied Zakharova's accusations, saying that Russia may use its claims as a pretext to deploy its own chemical or biological weapons.

The UN Security Council will convene on Friday at Russia's request, diplomats said, to discuss Moscow's claims, presented without evidence, of US biological activities in Ukraine.

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